The Great EDebate:The Pros and Cons of Digital Textbooks

The popularity of digital books is on the rise - ebook sales are expected to reach $1 billion this year. Only a small percentage of these total sales, however, are for electronic textbooks. While the popularity of etextbooks is on the rise, perceived hurdles currently limit full acceptance in academia. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of digital textbooks.

ebook textbook

Impressive Potential

The Kindle, Nook and iPad have helped to make ebooks very popular among consumers. The tendency of the public to gravitate toward electronic formats suggests this trend will only continue. And given that young people are typically most receptive to technological advances, the digital textbook market also seems likely to thrive.

The potential advantages of etextbooks can be compelling. They're usually cheaper than their paper counterparts, not to mention lighter. This can come as good news to students accustomed to shelling out major cash for textbooks, then carrying around a backbreaking load in their book bags. Who wouldn't want to save some money and carry less weight from class to class?

Digital textbooks can also be interactive. Some readers feature moving color graphics, highlighting capabilities and connectivity features that provide instant access to the Internet. Digital textbooks are 100 percent searchable, so gone are the days of feverishly flipping pages. That's not to mention their mobility, accompanying students with appropriate readers anywhere they go.

ebook textbook

A Period of Transition

Before you say goodbye to your 10 pound chem partner (read: textbook), however, it's important to consider the limitations of extextbooks. In some instances, features that are typically considered benefits can also be drawbacks. For example, digital textbooks cost less individually, but when you factor in the cost of buying a reader or laptop the savings may not be as significant.

Technical limitations also apply to certain digital textbooks. While some readers provide interactivity, others display what are basically page scans. Additionally, many different electronic formats are available, which can cause consumer confusion and lead to technical difficulties. Overall, it's fair to say technologies that will likely one day dominate the etextbook market are still in development.

digital textbooks

Promising Prospects

The good news is that these technologies are being developed and improved at a rapid rate. The Kno, a textbook tablet that allows students to read books, highlight text, surf the Internet and write notes, is now available for order. This device has been designed specifically for college students and represents an evolution from other consumer readers that left much to be desired when it came to digital textbooks.

New technology is also leading innovation in the way publishers create textbooks. The idea of a static reading of paper books is being bypassed with a mission to create interactive content that brings subject matter to life through images, video and social media. The goal: Allow students to experience content in new ways that will help them be more effective learners.

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